Weekend Binge: Like Stephen Hawking’s Theory of Everything, here are 6 great films about gifted geniuses
In honour of Stephen Hawking, who died this week, here are six films about gifted men and women and boys and girls that you must watch.weekend binge Updated: Mar 17, 2018 08:59 IST
Every week, we will curate a collection of titles - movies, TV, general miscellanea - for you to watch (and in some cases, read, or listen to), in a series we call Weekend Binge. The selection will be based on a theme which binds the picks - which could be extremely blunt in certain instances, or confusingly abstract in some. No rules apply, other than the end goal being getting some great entertainment to watch.
While the idea is to base the theme on the week’s major events - it could be the release of a new movie, or show - we could also use this opportunity to comment on our world in general, and turn to art to wrap our heads around some of the more difficult stories of the past seven days.
The shock of Stephen Hawking’s death sent ripples beyond the world of science. Like most obstacles life had thrown his way, Hawking had transcended being limited to one world. He zoomed in and out of our lives, teaching, sharing, philosophising, and most importantly, joking.
Everyone has a Hawking story, regardless of whether they’ve met him or not; and like millions, you’ve also pretended to have read A Brief History of Time. But that was the power of Hawking. He dared regular people -- folks like you and I -- to dream bigger, to gaze up at the stars and to wonder, to question, to challenge. We need to remember this, now more than ever. We need to remember what it felt like to be curious, because we all were, once upon a time.
Hawking’s courage will never be forgotten, because minds such as his are rare. “I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when its components fail,” he once said. “There is no heaven or afterlife for broken-down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark.”
So this week, we will talk about the stories of several other men and women and boys and girls who, like Hawking, were not afraid of the dark.
Between his contractually obligated appearances as Captain America, Chris Evans has quietly been evolving as one of the most interesting leading men in Hollywood, and certainly one of the most interesting leading white men. His science-fiction movie with Bong Joon-ho, Snowpiercer, is a modern classic. But in 2017, he got together with Marc Webb - who himself was looking to cleanse himself of blockbuster filmmaking after having directed the Amazing Spider-Man movies - and made Gifted, a small drama about a former professor-turned-handyman, Frank and his young niece.
Frank insists she insists gets a normal upbringing, despite her remarkable intellect, because his family has had a history with being gifted, and it has brought them more pain than joy. And while Gifted might feel familiar at times, it’s the sort of uplifting movie that stories such as this deserve.
For some reason, it’s far more common for scientists and prodigies to have biopics made on them, but it’s rare to get a biopic on writers. Perhaps because writers aren’t seen as geniuses - even the greats like Hemingway and Fitzgerald (who’ve both had films made on them, but they hardly celebrated their talents). The Hours, however, is just the sort of tribute Virginia Woolf deserves. It tells not only her story, as she struggles with the mental illness that finally consumed her, but of the impact her work has had over generations on everyone from bored housewives to dying old men.
The Royal Tenenbaums
The burden that comes with being a genius is well documented - you need not look further than the fantastic documentary about Bobby Fischer called Bobby Fischer Against the World - but you’d never think to look at genius, and the perils of being a genius, through the singular eye of director (and genius in his own right) Wes Anderson. Like most of his movies, The Royal Tenenbaums, about three gifted siblings who experience great success in their youth only to crumble under it in adulthood, takes an emotionally distant look at the most emotional aspects of humanity - this time, it’s about the relationship shared by parents and their children. And like most of his movies, it’s pure joy.
There are very few movies like Tim’s Vermeer, about an inventor’s attempts to recreate the paintings of Vermeer only to prove that with the right equipment, even someone without any talent (him) could accomplish wonders and achieve greatness. But soon, it transforms from being a film about a quirky experiment and turns into a dark character study about obsession, and the baggage it brings with it, and how, if left unchecked, it consumes everything in its path.
It’s directed by Teller, who is one half of the popular magician duo Penn & Teller, and for a while after the film’s release, there was speculation that it might be a big illusion, a mind trick performed on the big screen. We still don’t know what it really is, but it’s one of those films that you need to experience for yourself.
Searching for Bobby Fischer
You could watch Bobby Fischer Against the World to appreciate the strange life the greatest chess player of all time led - how he rose to prominence and how he chose to throw it all away. Or, you could watch Searching for Bobby Fischer, a movie about a young boy who must, for no fault of his own, live with the knowledge that the whole world expects him to fill the void left by Fischer.
There’s a reason I’ve left out films such as A Beautiful Mind, Good Will Hunting and Shine. There’s a good chance many of you have seen them already. They’re all excellent. I’ve left out Amadeus for similar reasons. Mozart’s gifts are well known and have got their due over the centuries. So why not watch Gus Van Sant’s dreamy little movie about the final days of Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain. Last Days is an uncompromising film; it leaves you stranded with Cobain (it’s never really acknowledged that it’s him, though) in his most weakest moments. There is an unstoppable inevitability to it; but you know there is little you can do but watch and soak in his greatness.